Sunday, December 07, 2008

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One Quarter of a Jew

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

I just put tefillin on a quarter of a Jew. At least that’s what he said he was.

“Are you Jewish?” I asked in Spanish. He was from Mexico, forty-two years old and seemed to be a very nice, non-Jewish man.

“I am one quarter of a Jew.” He smiled.

“Which quarter of you is the Jew?” I asked.

“My grandmother was Jewish.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, we have always known this.”

“Was she your father’s mother or your mother’s mother?”

“My mother’s mother.”

“If your mother’s mother was a Jew then your mother is a Jew. And if your mother is a Jew then you are a Jew.” I said tapping him on his chest.

“Come. Since you are a Jew, you can put on tefillin.” He had no idea of what I was talking about. Forty-two years old and not only had he never seen tefillin before, but he never even had the slightest idea that he is a Jew. Talk about going through quick changes.

When he finished the prayers I told him to pray that G-d should show him what he must do differently now that he knows that he is a Jew. I warned him not to follow any of the other religions. He was very happy although quite shocked. He walked into the Kotel as a stranger - a gentile, and he walked away from the Kotel a Jew. He has a brand new life in front of him.

In the meanwhile I saw one of the other men talking to a worker who came to fix a broken window. He did not really look Jewish. Most of the time you can tell if someone walking into the Kotel area is Jewish, but you really have to ask. Besides Hebrew he also spoke fluent Arabic so there was even more doubt. My friend asked him where he was from. He said that he lives in the Muslim Quarter (of the Old City). There are a number of Jewish families living in the Muslim Quarter but the vast majority there are Arabs.

“Are you Jewish?” my friend asked.

“Chetzi chetzi.” (half/half)” He answered.

“Which half is Jewish?”

“My mother is a Jewess. Her name used to be Levi.”

This was another first. A guy named Mohamed living in the Muslim Quarter with his Arab, Muslim family putting on tefillin at the Kotel! He lives as a Muslim but it turns out that he really is a Jew!

Just then an Israeli tour guide asked me to give a blessing to an obviously autistic, non-Jewish, ten-year-old boy. He was visiting the Kotel with his non-Jewish father. He seemed to be a very nice little boy. I put my mouth close to his ear and said. “Whenever you want help go out and find another young boy and you help him and G-d will help you.” I told him several times, sweetly but directly to make sure that he understood what I was saying. He tried to move away from me. I must have seemed overwhelming to him; a strange man bending down and speaking so directly. But I followed him and gently repeated what I told him until he seemed to understand. Then, as the guide had asked, I prayed that Hashem would give the boy a complete healing.

The tour guide did not want to put on tefillin. He was friendly enough but said that he would do it latter, which means, “No way.” I told the boy’s father who hired the guide that he could get credit in Heaven by having the Jewish man put on tefillin. He caught on right away. He wanted a blessing for his son and saw this as a way to possibly get it. In a friendly way he told the guide to put on tefillin. Obviously, the guide wanted a big tip for his work guiding him so he had to cooperate. He put the tefillin on by himself and despite his initial reluctance ended up having a good time.

Although it sounded like I was joking with the father in order to get the Jew to put on tefillin, I wasn’t. When a gentile helps a Jew to do a mitzvah that gentile shares in the benefit of that mitzvah. It is said that in the latter days the non-Jews are going to realize what great benefits come to the world from Jews learning Torah and they are going to station guards outside the study halls to make sure that the Jews do not go home early.

In the short ninety minutes that I helped out today there were several groups each with a dozen or so young boys crowding around the stand trying to put on tefillin, calling out, “Me. Me, I’m next.” Soldiers of every rank, tourists and Israelis each with his own story, each with his own needs. Some come wanting to put on tefillin but most need some kind of encouragement.

One after the other - one story after another walks up to the Kotel. There is the overall story that we all share; the story of mankind inching toward the final redemption. And there are the individual stories that each of us has for himself.

Deep down everyone is searching even if they do not know it. Buried inside each of us, under all those layers of desires for the physical world there is a thirst to find and fulfill our spiritual purpose. This is true even though we seem to have completely forgotten that there even is a spiritual purpose.

It is such a blessing to be able to stand here and help move these Jews in the direction they really want to go. When people ask me, “What do you do for a living?” I tell them that I polish diamonds. And you know what? So can you. You can touch people wherever you are. You do not have to be at the Kotel to change someone’s life.

3 comments:

koby said...

wow, beautiful.
amazing stuff... a yid who lived so close and didn't even know, until now.

it's a great zechus to do what you're doing. yasher koach

Anonymous said...

The overall story of mankind inching toward the final redemption? I was just at Phyllis Chesler's blog and learned that today is the 20 anniversary of Women of the Wall. While I do not personally relate to
WOW (I like to pray quietly and with much privacy), I was sickened to read about Haredi throwing rocks and metal chairs at these Jewish/Women.
We live in a world where women are denied basic rights on a daily basis. A world where women are being
mutilated , raped, and killed off. And even at the holiest site in the holy city there are JEWS who would throw rocks and chairs at Jewish/women praying in an "incorrect" manner?!!!!!!! These women just want their voices to be heard. You think the Haredi could maybe just possibly LISTEN?! I mean REALLY listen with the heart? Naw, let's throw rocks and chairs at Jewish/women and do it in the name of G-d and Torah. Now let's look up at where the Temple should be and and wonder why it isn't there yet.
I guess that is one of the reasons I did not find this article inspiring. I cannot share a vision of "mankind" progressing towards redemption that doesn't include women.

Ari Goldwag said...

Rav Locks, that was so beautiful. Keep these stories coming. It is so inspiring to see what lies dormant inside of each Jew.

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